My “democracy” will not be your democracy II

25 03 2015

Just a couple of days ago, The Dictator was holding forth on his commitment to something he calls “democracy” and his recognition that his junta took power in a “non-democratic” manner. A couple of days later, the very same leader, the self-appointed prime minister of bad temper and poor manners, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has said something quite different.

Khaosod reports that Prayuth has opined that Thailand “… has seen so much trouble because we have had too much democracy…”. He declared: “I insist that today, we are 99 percent democratic, because I didn’t overthrow democracy at all.” In fact, 99% is an improvement on Prayuth’s last estimate, a week ago, when he said it was 90%.

Let’s try to get this straight…. If he didn’t overthrow democracy when he formed a junta and ousted an elected government, appointing puppet committees and legislature, making himself and his military buddies cabinet ministers, ditching a constitution while instituting martial law and threatening and harassing hundreds he feels are opponents, then his overthrow of that government and all the other stuff was establishing a 99% democracy?

He was speaking to “investors and businessmen” at the Federation of Thai Industries, a group that has seldom shown much interest in democracy in Thailand but we imagine that even they were befuddled by The Dictator’s mangled logic.

But he hates his own 99% democracy. While he doesn’t say which countries, he reckons that “other countries …[have] more power to restrict freedoms…”. Prayuth seemed pleased to observe that in those unnamed countries – we guess North Korea, China –   “Even the media can’t criticize [those leaders], like they do here.”

Prayuth’s sparkling (lack of) logic continued when he stated that he can’t be The Dictator because, if he “had complete power,” then he “would have imprisoned [critics] or handed them to a firing squad.” We suspect that this represents Prayuth’s threat and dream.





Wikileaks: Coup good for business

2 03 2012

U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce was happy enough to support the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, a leader Boyce had earlier described as “delusional.”

In a Wikileaks cable sent a day after the coup, Boyce is happy to report “near universal agreement among Thai and US businesspersons and RTG civil servants … that any economic fallout from Thailand’s military coup will be shallow and short-lived.” Boyce was remarkably upbeat, seemingly reflecting his elation about the coup and informed by businesspeople who wanted Thaksin out.

Boyce reports that the Governor of the Bank of Thailand expected no major problems but stood ready to intervene if required. More politicized was an “official from the Federation of Thai Industries” chortled that the coup was “good news for business…”. The FTI expected a government of “highly qualified technocrats.” They were soon disappointed but unbowed politically. Thai exporters were said to be “positive on the political developments, saw no real downside to their export business and looked forward to greater economic stability.”

The “Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok advised us that … they had no particular concerns about business conditions going forward.”

Boyce summarizes that “the feeling among most Thais is that overall uncertainty is reduced because of the coup, and less uncertainty is better for business.” How he felt he knew is anybody’s guess. Boyce concludes: “The optimism of the business community, even in the face of martial law, is striking. One foreign brokerage has actually recommended a double-weighting for Thai assets in the wake of the coup.”

In two further cables on the same day (here and here), Boyce details how the United States would respond to the coup. Most of its actions were mandated by U.S. legislation. The Embassy mentions this as involving Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. The Embassy stated that it supported the

immediate suspension of obligations or expenditures of funds under programs such as International Military Education and Training (IMET), Foreign Military Financing (FMF), the Economic Support Fund (ESF), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL), and others until the President determines and certifies to Congress that a democratically elected government has taken office. Post further proposes that those military programs that are similar to initiatives subject to Section 508, but not part of the Foreign Operations Act, also be suspended until the installation of an acceptable interim civilian caretaker government. These programs would include our comprehensive military exercise program, and programs already funded for maritime security under Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006.

Note that the highlighted words indicate nothing more than a nominal suspension of these addition programs. Indeed, Boyce declares that these “additional sanctions might only be in place for a brief period…”. He argues that they would allow him to pressure the “Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) to take necessary intermediate steps resulting in a freely elected civilian government.” Note the contradiction between “elected government” and a “caretaker government.”

There were many exemptions: “the Peace Corps, or those aimed at providing disaster assistance, HIV/AIDS programs and other programs not benefiting the military…”. At the same time, Boyce argued that:

[s]ome of our security assistance programs in Thailand are vitally important to U.S. interests. Included among these are the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) being implemented at Thai ports of entry to monitor travelers entering and exiting the country, the U.S. Military Information Support Team (MIST) with Civil Affairs augmentation developing a psyops strategy for Thai soldiers countering insurgents in Southern Thailand, and discreet bilateral training to assist Thai soldiers rotating to the South to identify and disarm IEDs….  The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) is another program we should continue to support, as Thailand is scheduled to host the GPOI CAPSTONE event in May 2007, with participation from five other countries.

Boyce reckoned these were “benign and non-lethal programs” – in the south?? – and asked that the all be exempted. That is these security programs were to continue, despite the coup. In other words, Boyce was keen that the U.S. do little more than give the military junta more than a mild slap on the wrist.





Capitalists and military align on monarchy

16 07 2010

The Bangkok Post mentions “a merit-making and Buddhist chanting ceremony was held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, organised by the Internal Security Operations Command, the Thai Bankers’ Association and the Thai Chambers of Commerce. Hundreds of people took part in the ceremony aimed at bringing Thais together in a show of unity and loyalty to the monarchy.”

This brings together the peak organizations of business and military internal security in order to support the politically debilitated monarchy. PPT suspects that the ceremony is doing little more than making the palace feel better about its declining position and getting together true believers for a symbolic act. Certainly those who now oppose the monarchy are not likely to be convinced by last-century propaganda.





Under pressure on emergency rule

4 07 2010

PPT saw Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a buoyant mood on Channel 9 on Sunday as he was “interviewed” by tame “journalists.” Abhisit was fronting his ludicrous PR stunt involving a phone in of “ideas,” with callers being received by some politicians, some celebrities and some students in uniform. He said that the emergency decree might be lifted in some areas and maintained in others where red shirts remain active.

In The Nation, however, a range of groups have come out to criticize the government for maintaining emergency rule. Business groups and local and international organisations are said to have “heaped pressure on the government to immediately lift the state of emergency for the sake of national reconciliation and stability…”.

Abhisit disingenuously claims that emergency rule “was still necessary” but “not because the government wanted to squeeze the opposition…”. As PPT has pointed out previously, when under pressure, Abhisit claims that he is acting to preserve the rule of law. In this instance he said the “government just wanted to implement the law effectively…”. In fact, the emergency decree allows the government to act as if it is above the law.

The International Crisis Group is cited as claiming the Abhisit government as having “persisted with this [reconciliation] plan despite having created an atmosphere of repression where the basic rights of the red-shirt group are denied by the emergency law…”. It calls for the government to “unconditionally and immediately lift the state of emergency.”

Local groups have also “denounced the government for retaining the draconian emergency measures even though the situation had calmed down enough to be controlled with regular laws. The groups included the Human Rights and Legal Assistance Centre for those affected from Political Turmoil, Human Rights Lawyers Association, Cross Cultural Foundation, Union for Civil Liberty, Campaign Committee for Human Rights, Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants, and Deep South Watch.”

They have been joined by business groups that see the state of emergency as crippling for the tourism industry. Even the usually tame Federation of Thai Industries and Thai Chamber of Commerce wanted the emergency law lifted. FTI chair stated that the “emergency law has had a detrimental effect not only on the private sector’s confidence but also on human rights…”.